I wrote this for another group of people, but I thought to share it with a few here who may understand what I am saying.
Memorial day has passed, and it is always difficult for me, as the meaning is different for me than most.
I feel quite sure that you don't want to hear my views on that, so I will be careful.
Yesterday I made my weekly pilgrimage to the recycling center in my truck, with my wife, two big German Shepard dogs, and a load of trash. I am friends with the fellow who minds the place, he being a Hungarian whose family fled the communists in Hungary to live in Switzerland, where he grew up and was educated. He is older than me, and well educated, enjoyable to talk to about many subjects. He works at the recycling center because there are few jobs available to old folks, and he needs the money, little as it is.
While talking with Karl, a vehicle pulls in, kids jump out, and an older man climbs out also. I recognize them as Montagnards, as there is a large group of them living near me, and I am familiar with them. They are a small people, and dark skinned, generally quite friendly.
Indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands in Vietnam - Wikipedia
The older man pointed and asked who owned that truck, and I said it was mine, he said truck number one, and that was enough of an opening for me to start a conversation with him. He spoke broken English, but I am used to that, and could make out most everything he said. We squatted down on our heels in the shade of the little shack there, and talked of many things, for about an hour. He was very forthcoming, seemed to hunger for someone who understood his experiences, and he found that in me. I listened to his story.
He spoke of how the Vietnamese, after the Americans left, attacked his village in the mountains. They were squatting around the cook fire when the Vietnamese opened up on them with B-40 rockets. He asked me if I knew of B-40 rockets, and I told him yes, I nearly was killed by one. He said people were killed, blown through the air, others were hurt but got better later, and they all fled into the jungle to survive. He opened his shirt and showed me the scar where he was shot in the chest, said the bullet exited his back, showed me the scar on his leg where he had been shot, and both arms where shrapnel had wounded him. I said you are lucky to have lived, he smiled and agreed.
I knew that this scenario played out many times, as the Communists attempted to drive the Montagnards out of Vietnam, or exterminate them. There was no forgetting, no forgiveness of the fact that the Montagnards had fought alongside our special forces, against the communists. They were our friends, our allies, and our government abandoned them when we ran from that war. If not for the special forces community, very few of them would have been able to come to America.
We talked of many things, the war, the jungle, the hard times then, and the possibilities now. He had only last month managed to bring his grandchildren to America, and they were wary, could speak no English. They were the children he had brought with him to help, they were his responsibility. He said nothing of their parents, and I did not ask. He was worried about not having a job, not being able to provide for his people through his labor ......... at that age, in that condition. He said the other Montagnards who were employed provided for all the group, but that bothered him because he felt he needed to contribute.
I couldn't help but be aware of the contrast between his attitude and that of so many in America that only want others to give to them.
We talked until an hour past the closing time for the recycling center, Karl having shut the gates, unnoticed by me. Reluctantly the man gathered his grandchildren into the car, and started to drive out, only to stop, honk the horn, and wave, saying something I couldn't make out. We had connected through similar experience, and an understanding, acceptance of one another, and he found it difficult to leave his new friend.
I have been in pain since then, in my heart. Memorial day, when we remember our own, but when do we remember those who we leave behind as we grind up whole peoples and cultures in the wars we fight? How should we reflect on these things? Should we not at least attempt to see the reality, the whole of it, rather than just our slice, our lost people?
Wars have ramifications that spread through time, that affect many thousands of peoples, and I cannot help but see it as self serving to only recognize those we have lost.
By selective remembrance, we enable justifications of the future wars, the thousands of maimed and dead to come.
Yesterday someone laughingly referred to Trump wishing PM Abe a "Happy Memorial Day." I replied that it wasn't VJ day, it was a day, like Remembrance Day, to honor those who served and those who fell. I'm not sure that I got through and am not sure that I care.
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